Mondays with Melitas – January 30, 2012

CLOSE TO LIGHTS OUT NEAR THE AIRPORT                 JAN. 30, 2012

     I need to say more about my flying days, and describe the instructions that one had to go through to be licensed as a pilot.  While taking your flight

Instructions, you would first be accompanied by the Instructor, and you would be taught how to take off and land — very important, in fact I would say most important. When you got that down pretty good, you would then be flying around learning all the other maneuvers of turning, etc., etc.          

     When you had progressed enough in your proficiency to fly solo, you had to practice, practice, practice. You had better practice take-offs and landings till you could manage them in your sleep. I was good at this.  When I went in for a landing, I landed — not like some who would give it the throttle and not land because they were tentative, or plain old scared — then they had to get into the pattern and try to get the plane onto the landing strip for a second try.  Some would have to try more than that.

     Now, about spins — you have to practice these over and over because in the event that you would somehow find yourself going into a spin for no reason and Mother Earth is coming at you, and you don’t have a clue as to how you got yourself into this mess, you would have to know how to extricate the plane out of a could-be very deadly end to an otherwise beautiful day.

     When practicing your spins, you climb to an altitude of 3500 feet, stall with the nose of the plane up and veer off into your spin. Spinning, spinning, spinning,  (but not exactly the Wheel of Fortune by Kay Starr) then at 2000 feet you pull out and fly straightaway.  

      On this particular day, I was flying my beloved Luscombe in the airspace between the Airport and the Ocean practicing, practicing, practicing the spins, for over an hour, everything was going great, it was a bright sunny day – no June gloom — then ALL OF A SUDDEN as I am pulling out of the spin when there was a very loud earsplitting snap of metal, and the plane was out of control —it was flying level, but only kept turning right.  I will never know how I kept my cool to figure out what had happened. My mind was racing!  First thing I said to myself, “I do not want to crash, and ‘become late’ as they say inBotswana when you croak, so get busy, THINK!”  The plane was only turning to the right, and that’s when I realized that my left rudder cable pedal was ‘way back — it was the one that had snapped — and the right pedal was ‘way forward;  so with my feet and legs, with all my might I had to get those pedals right in the middle. It dawned on me that I had to use both feet on the left pedal to align them. Indeed, I struggled, finally aligned them and could fly straight.  So now I could fly straight, and did so to get myself calmed down, and also figure out how I was going to set the plane down on the runway. I sure didn’t want to run out of gas just flying around.  If that happened my Plan B would be to fly to the mouth of the creek where it empties into the ocean, (it was dry at this time of year) and glide on to the beach.  I really gave that plan up very quickly, and would only think of Plan A, and that was to make a landing smack dab on our runway. It was more familiar territory.

     So I circled around high over the landing strip, and then gathered the guts together to finally take it down with no way of knowing what would happen.

I got into the pattern, and as I was over Aunt Mae’s house I looked left at the

strip, and thought “Oh, my God” what do I do now. Then into the descent to land, and I CHICKENED out — hit the throttle and picked up altitude. A fraidy-cat, so now that made me mad!   I flew around into the pattern again, and this time as I passed over Aunt Mae’s place — she was there, but just wasn’t aware of all the activity of an airport — I said to her: “This time I do it.”  With that, flying into the last leg to land,  I prayed a lot. I had no notion of what would happen when the wheels touched down, so as soon as they did, I put those brakes on like there was no tomorrow — just like I was feeling, there was no tomorrow— and stopped like on a dime.  It was the shortest landing ever on that field, probably taking up 1/10th of the field, if that.  I tumbled out of the cockpit

 on to the field, just laying there when Bill, the Major, came running, yelling: “What’s the matter, Melita, you have NEVER made a 2nd pass at this landing strip—-“ 

      I could not speak — I got myself up off the ground, walked off, got into my car and drove across the valley home with Aunt Mae.

      The next day I drove back to the airport, and got into a plane, and took off —

9 Comments to “Mondays with Melitas – January 30, 2012”

  1. Well, that one was a real thriller! More please.

  2. Can’t imagine you chickening out! Love your stories, Mena!!

  3. You are the luckiest and happiest person I know.

  4. Hair raising, back in the day you had some! Glad you made that landing, Mel.

  5. Loved reading that one! I never learned to fly, but I did learn to skydive. I jumped out of a plane once – and decided I never needed to do that again! When I told my Dad I had skydived out of an old single engine plane, he said, “jumping out of that plane was the best thing I ever did” He was in the Army Air Corp and used to work on planes during the WWII. He said they used to glue them together with ‘chewing gum’ so the pilots could get back in the air to bomb the Japanese. Love that picture of you too. Keep em coming!


  6. You’ve been “flying high” ever since I met you. You rock girl.

  7. Dear Mena,

    You have guts. I am afraid to fly; so I can’t even imagine being in that situation. Dick, however, still flies. I will make sure he reads this.


  8. Another high-flying adventure from the most alive woman I know. Congratulations, Melitas — a great story!

  9. Melitas you totally amaze me! What an awesome story! You had me gritting my teeth! Love hearing about your adventures. Thank you for sharing!

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